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‘Dry Taser’ used to quell unruly county jail inmate

Sheriff’s officers were forced to “dry Taser” a jail inmate Monday after he began threatening to fight the staff and getting the other inmates agitated in the process.

According to Curry County Sheriff John Bishop, the man was threatening to commit suicide by hanging himself, and when officers told him to accompany them out of the cell, he refused and threatened to fight with them.

A Taser comes equipped with a removable dart that can be used to immobilize someone; if the dart is removed, as it was in this incident, the Taser can be applied directly to a person to stun them and make them cooperate.

Officers were called in off the streets, and with the help of jail and patrol deputies and administration staff, they went into the cell, used the Taser twice to get the inmate under control and took him from the cell. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation and released back to jail officials.

“They challenge us every once in awhile,” Bishop said. “They puff up; we have to let them know who runs the jail and it’s not them. It’s us.”

The incident took 10 to 15 minutes.

“It took the rest of the afternoon to calm everybody down,” Bishop said. “The inmates were all riled up. It disrupts the whole day.”

The incident points directly to the challenges facing jail officials in light of budget cuts at the county level.

Curry County Sheriff’s Office has 10 positions budgeted; currently, six of those are open, Bishop said. Longtime veteran Gavin McVay recently resigned to take a job with the City of Brookings Police Department. There, he will receive $1,000 more in monthly pay, better benefits and doesn’t have to drive to Gold Beach every day.

“He said, ‘I didn’t want to leave, but the thought of being unemployed next July is not a pleasant thought for my family,’” Bishop said, reading from McVay’s resignation letter. “‘The only reason is because of the uncertainty of the budget. It’s a scary thought for me and my family. I have to do what I have to do to support them. It has nothing to do with the agency or staff.’

“That’s what we’re getting,” Bishop added. “Our good people are leaving, and will continue to until we can get this (budget) train back on track.”

To effectively run the jail, Bishop needs three jail deputies on staff. Currently, shifts are run with two. There are three positions open, although one might be filled later this month.

“Normally (running the jail) would take 12 people,” he said. “We do that with administration helping, a night-time corporal and jail lieutenant, and overtime. That’s why we’re starting to see some of this acting up by these inmates.”

It’s why two recent hires quit, too, he said, adding that they felt they weren’t being paid enough to deal with the abuse inmates inflict upon them, including spitting and challenging them.

Deputies are paid just over $16 an hour. 

“People who say they are paid too much, they get too many benefits – they are nuts,” Bishop said. “This is what we’re forced to deal with.”

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